Saturday, June 12, 2010
I have written previously about teaching Pre-Law Prep camp at UConn for the first time. The prep camp is a little different from what most traditional ASPer's do. I spend a significant amount of my time working with undergrads applying to law school, and spend my spring preparing them for the transition to law school. My students are a varied bunch, as one would expect at a large public university. After 5 years in ASP, and seeing the skills that students need to succeed, I decided to create Pre-Law Prep Camp for students who have been accepted to law school, but have not yet matriculated. Most schools have orientation of varying intensities and lengths, some schools have pre-orientation that is limited to certain groups of students, and I wanted to bridge the gap between these programs for students who will be starting law school in the fall.
My prep camp ran over 3 Saturdays, mid-spring semester. All students and alumni I worked with during the year where open to attend. Unfortunately, this year holidays and open houses conflicted with at least one day of camp for most participants. However, I had a remarkably committed group considering I was asking them to be at school at 9am on Saturdays and come prepared with homework assignments.
The material I covered was modified from the material I covered when I was in charge of pre-orientation as an ASP Director. We started with the basic logistics of law school, including how and where to get help. We covered what books are worth buying, which books should be read before law school, and which books should be purchased during the summer and used during law school. Then came the ASP basics: reading, briefing, writing, and studying. Instead of asking students to practice studying, we went over the theories of studying and why law school differs from undergrad.
The Prep Camp was a great opportunity for me to impart a bit of advice before students moved to the law school world. The wonderful thing about teaching before they begin law school is that they are not nervous or trying to impress their peers; many of the students knew each other from their courses. There was no need to impress anyone. I was not grading them, and few students would be attending the same law school. Adrenaline and stress was removed from the environment, and all the students needed to do was learn about law school success.
I plan on offering the Prep Camp again next year, and think we may develop it into a P/F, final semester, capstone course for seniors before they graduate. (RCF)
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The countdown to the bar exam has begun for most 2010 law grads. They have had a chance to celebrate their graduation, visit with loved ones and hopefully relax a little. However, with the bar exam looming, it proves challenging to fully feel finished with their academic legal career until the bar exam is behind them.
Naturally bar review is the next step. Therefore, my next postings will provide bar support ideas for the distinct needs of students through each phase of bar review. I have divided bar review into three parts based on my observations of how students’ mood/attitude changes during the process. Since every student is unique, use this merely as a strategic guide and alter as needed based upon their individual needs.
The three phases of bar review can be analogized to the three basic parts of a story. Simply put: the beginning, middle and end. Or equated to the more complicated romance novel: the romance, the break-up and then finally the reunion or happily ever after ending. Or better yet to a grand epic: a mighty cause or purpose, a struggle or challenge and then ending with triumph and utter transformation from the journey.
In the Beginning… The Romance, Quest and Journey to Passing the Bar
Typically, the first part of a story or novel sets the stage and introduces the characters and the plot. This is the hook. It is what draws in the reader and forces them to continue reading. For bar review, this is the lead up to the first class and the introduction or orientation session. Students receive packets of information in the mail or via email in the days or weeks leading up to the start of their bar review. Some tear open the brown card board boxes as if it was their 8th birthday all over again; while others, leave them in a corner collecting dust until the final moment. But all of them begin thinking about what lies ahead.
During this beginning phase of their bar prep, many students eagerly anticipate their start date. Recently a few students confided in me that they are “excited” to get started with their bar prep classes and that it seems like bar review might even be “fun”. (This was not the norm when I took the bar 10 years ago and may not be long lived for them either.) Thus, the romance or epic quest has begun.
Although difficult to imagine anything about the bar exam being romantic, in a very real sense students have been bewitched by the bar for years. They are giddy with anticipation to see what bar review is like, they have sweaty palms and heart palpitations when they think about the test itself and they likely devote more time and attention to studying for the bar than they have anything else in their lifetime- including courting their true love.
That said, it is important to encourage students to make the most of this starry eyed and idealistic phase. Additionally, they have more energy and time now than they will later in the summer. Based upon my experience working with students during this tumultuous period, I have compiled ten guiding principles to help usher them into the early phase of bar review.
With these ten action points and guiding principles students should begin bar review on the right footing. On this quest for success on the bar exam, romance quickly turns to heartache and challenge. However, if students know what to expect and plan accordingly, passing the bar exam will be more easily achieved. I hope that in passing these strategies and pieces of advice on to your students this summer will alleviate some of their stress and improve their chances of success on the bar exam.
In the Beginning of Bar Prep:
1. Calendar everything! Efficient time management is crucial to being successful on the bar exam. Create a master calendar that records your lectures, essay and/or MPT and/or MBE practice time and what you will do with the limited free time that is left over. Be as detailed as possible with your calendar in order to beneficially use your time and realistically plan for your summer.
2. Delegate non-essential tasks! Hire a babysitter, dog walker and enlist another member of your household to assist with household chores. Delegate in order to free up more time in your day or week. Prioritize your responsibilities and let go of all unnecessary duties or chores. They will be there when the bar is over.
3. Discuss your desire to pass the bar with your family and friends. Letting your loved ones know how important passing the bar exam is to you and why you will not see much of them this coming summer will help you stay on track with your studying and garner more support from them when you need it most.
4. Arrange your travel plans and/or hotel stay. No, I do not mean booking your tickets to Cabo for a long weekend in July! Instead, make sure you book your hotel and/or flight so that you are near the bar exam testing location in your state. Hotels fill quickly and you do not want to be stuck commuting for your bar exam. (Also, ask for a fridge in your room. It will allow you to eat in and avoid the extra expense and potential tummy trouble of eating out for every meal.)
5. Review your state bar policies and rules. Review the security policies, bar association requirements and testing location rules so that you do not need to make last minute arrangements. Will you be able to use a laptop or must you handwrite? Can you use a MAC or do you need a PC? Are there restrictions on what you are allowed to wear or bring into the testing room? Find out!
6. Get healthy! Avoid late nights, bar hopping and poor food choices. It is time to eat smart so that you can think smart. Again, advance planning will help you stick to a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. Incorporate exercise into your day. Reward yourself with a brisk walk, bike ride or yoga class. Countless studies show, not only that exercise boosts brain function, but exercise also promotes better sleep, improves mood and increases energy. These are all things you will need during your bar prep!
7. Apply for an accommodation If you are applying for a testing accommodation, make sure you know the requisite materials/documentation needed and the submission deadlines. Get started early since this can be a time consuming process.
8. Know thyself. Follow your bar review provider’s program, listen during your orientation to absorb the many nuggets of useful information and do your best to adhere to their schedule. HOWEVER, above all, listen to yourself! You know your strengths and weaknesses. You must learn the law and put it into practice but you may need to adapt your schedule to how you learn best. Be flexible and trust your instincts.
9. Seek additional help early! Everyone is stressed during bar review. However, you need to differentiate between stress and your need for academic/bar support. If you are missing a key piece of information, a strategy for the MBE or a critical essay writing technique, it is best to recognize this early in your bar prep and remedy it before you become overwhelmed in your review. First, approach your bar review provider. You paid a considerable amount of money for their expertise and individualized assistance is part of that fee. If they are unable to assist you, do not stop seeking help. Go to your Academic Support, Bar Support, or Dean of Students at your law school to see how they can assist. Last but not least, ask a friend or Law Professor.
10. Adopt a mantra: “I will pass the bar exam!” Remaining positive during your bar review will yield positive results. Use “post it” notes to wallpaper your life with encouraging affirmations, distance yourself from negativity or overly stressed out peers and feel confident that your commitment and hard work will pay off.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Manager of Student Affairs
Manager of Student Affairs
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University, seeks applicants for the position of Manager of Student Affairs, to begin on June 19, 2010, or soon thereafter.
The Manager of Student Affairs develops and directs the student affairs program of the College of Law, builds and coordinates the school’s growing externship program, and helps monitor student academic and personal progress, employing intervention strategies as necessary. The Manager of Student Affairs develops, implements, and administers programs that reflect the University's commitment to diversity, and serves as administrative liaison to student organizations. In addition, the Manager of Student Affairs, provides direct academic, career and professional development advice to students, as requested.
Minimum qualifications include a J.D. degree from an ABA accredited law school and two years of work experience requiring excellent organizational, interpersonal, written and verbal communication skills. Work experience may include student affairs, academic advising, teaching, or practice experience. The successful candidate must show an ability to work effectively with a wide range of constituencies in a diverse community. Preferred qualifications include admission to the practice of law and experience working in a higher education setting in the areas of student affairs, academic or career advising. Knowledge of career and professional development programs, services, and resources is a plus. Some evening and/or weekend hours will be required.
The successful candidate will report to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and will work closely with the Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, the Director of Career Planning, and the Manager of Academic Support. The successful candidate will supervise and build the college’s growing externship program, manage the college’s diversity and pipeline programs, and help advise students with respect to the academic and career issues.
Compensation is commensurate with experience. This position is a 12 month, non-tenure track position, with a renewable contract. For more information, and to apply for the position, please go to https://hrjobs.csuohio.edu and search under College of Law. The search committee, chaired by Associate Dean Heidi Gorovitz Robertson, will begin reviewing applications immediately. The position will remain open until filled.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
A faculty colleague and I were discussing our general concern that some law students who do well in their classes do not have much tolerance for or patience with fellow law students who are having trouble in a course. We could think of examples where the students with higher grades would exhibit less than desirable behavior in relation to such students or professor attempts to help those students.
Mind you, when talking about law students who are struggling, we meant specifically those who are working really hard to understand the material but are just not getting it as quickly as their classmates. We were not referring to law students who are slackers.
After our conversation, I noticed a posting on Stephanie West Allen's Idealawg entitled Empathy: College students don't have as much as they used to. As with every perspective there are different views and counter-arguments. But, I must confess that the research cited may indeed explain some of the behavior that we see among some law students as they react to their fellow students and their professors.
Food for thought. As ASP'ers, we can try to show the empathy that our struggling students may not receive from other students who are competing for grades and status. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Like most law schools, we have an assortment of summer courses - some required and some elective - but it is not a heavily subscribed phenomenon. Things are pretty quiet throughout the summer.
For most law students, summer school is an adjustment. Having the same class five days a week for five weeks is new. They often find that their usual friends are not here for the summer. They may be juggling a part-time job for the first time with school obligations. And the heat of a Texas summer is often a jolt for those who normally attend August to May.
For many students the summer is a plus. They like being able to focus in depth on one or two courses rather than juggling four or five subjects. They find that the five-day immersion helps their understanding and retention because they constantly have to grapple with the material. Classes are often smaller than the academic year sections of the same required courses so there is more time for questions and "face time" with the professors. They become more efficient and effective in their study habits to keep up with the daily pace.
For procrastinators, the fast pace can be a negative; one cannot put off doing any work until the end of the session and succeed. Summer school students need to jump in with both feet from day one. Otherwise, they will become quickly overwhelmed and fall behind. Everything will seem on fast forward for students who do not have good time and work management skills.
For those without a built-in group of friends, it is an opportunity to work in study groups or partnerships with new people. They often discover much in common with classmates they previously overlooked during the academic year.
For those with their first part-time job (or perhaps an externship), they discover the excitement of applying what they have learned in the classroom to practical situations. Legal concepts and procedures that before were merely knowledge are experienced within the reality of a client's case. Understanding is increased because of doing rather than just reading or memorizing.
As the temperature is expected to rise to new records in the low- to mid-100's during the coming days, summer school students will find new ways to stay cool. Staying in the air conditioning to study does not seem like a bad idea after all. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, June 4, 2010
For most ASPer's, summer is here. Depending on your roleat your school, this may be a quiet time to catch up on reading and planning for the upcoming year, or it may be the beginning of your busy season, if you are involved in bar prep. Regardless of your role, be sure to take some time to reflect on your hits and misses during this past school year. Re-evaluate what programs you want to continue, update, change, or throw out for the upcoming year. Be sure you take some time to re-evaluate your program for yourself. We spend so much time justifying our programs to our schools, that we sometimes forget that everything is a work-in-progress, and not all programs are meant to survive year after year. It's okay to have a program that flops, sometimes in spite of your best efforts. Use your misses as an opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of your students. Sometimes students change faster than we do, and our programs are just not reflecting their current needs. Sometimes a program misses and there is no explanation why it did not work. The key is not to be afraid of failure, and not to take successes for granted. Sometimes it seems as if law school curriculum is set in stone (and from the Stone Age) but ASP needs to be flexible and adapt to the changing needs of our students.
If you do have some spare time this summer, there are a handful of new or revised ASP books on the market that could be helpful to you. I suggest everyone take a look at Carolina Academic Press (CAP) website and check out their new titles, as well as West and Aspen. Don't be afraid to ask for a desk copy; publishers offer them so you can check out their books and recommend them to students.
Even if you are involved in bar prep, take some time for yourself to recharge your batteries. Staycation, vacation, or just a couple of days off--everyone needs a break.
Everyone should take advantage of the wonderful conferences being offered this summer and early fall. As always, LSAC has some amazing conferences planned, as well as the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning conference in Topeka. (I am an presently out of the conference loop because of time constraints and budget cuts, so I may be missing some.) It is wonderful to catch up with colleagues and share successes and horror stories (we all got 'em!)
For the next couple of weeks I will be leading orientation sessions for incoming freshman, and then I am off to teach 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at Stanford for a couple of weeks (my version of a vacation), so my posts may be a bit more sparse than usual. Here is to wishing everyone a wonderful, healthy, relaxing summer! (RCF)
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Grades have come out. The probation and academic dismissal lists have been drawn up now. There are some surprises. And some not. Now begins the process of talking with students who will be petitioning.
Of course, the students want to know "yes" or "no" as to whether their petitions will be approved. It is not that easy, however. Each petition is decided case by case on its unique circumstances and merits. There is not a formula that calculates whether a petition will get approved or be denied. There is no crystal ball.
And there is the waiting time. Decisions on petitions for readmission to continue with one's own class do not take too long because a committee reviews the petitions. Petitions for re-entry to start over again as a 1L are the problem. With summer, it is the task of getting a faculty quorum to meet on these petitions (also on appeals of the readmission committee).
Depending on the student's circumstances, the petition itself might get delayed. For example, a student may need time for testing for previously undiagnosed learning disabilities/ADHD and following up with the process for accommodations. That information may be critical to the petition's chances of success. Delay on being able to petition means delay in an answer, especially if it is a re-entry petition and the process goes beyond the scheduled June faculty votes for re-entry.
In talking with students, I try to help them realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of their petitions. We also talk about their options within the process. And I often talk with them about back-up plans if their petition is not approved. Although most of them would rather avoid the latter discussion, I find that if their petitions do not get approved, they are better able to handle that decision if they have already thought about their alternative plans. Often they will apply to another graduate program here or closer to home.
How can I help the most as an ASP'er during the process?
- By answering questions and explaining procedures.
- By listening to concerns and reading between the lines.
- By being available for appointments and phone calls.
- By giving an honest assessment of the pros and cons of each case.
- By making appropriate referrals.
- By being someone they can talk to about their fears, concerns, and anxiety.
- By reminding them, should things go awry with the petition, that law school is not the only path in life and they are still talented individuals.
I cannot make things instantly right for the students. But I can make things less lonely for them during the process. (Amy Jarmon)